a half century of confronting Art & Practice.
Make effort while a glimmer illuminates your task.
Make effort when incoherence stops the whole from appearing whole. Sit with it when the impulse lags. Leave it fallow when attention wanders.
Take lessons forward from where they have been discovered.
Work in ways in which an addition or a subtraction, an affirmation or a negation, become indistinguishable, interchangeable.
Move on the urge. Stop at the end of it. Distinguish urge from compulsion. And, drop your compulsions.
Value is not “added.” Quality is not something we can “control.” Value results from the honesty of our confrontation. Confrontation, not meant as a battle. It’s not a battle. It is a standing before. We stand before questions we can’t hope to answer.
Quality is a characteristic of coherence. Coherence is a movement between implicit and explicit and back again and again. Coherence can only begin to appear when we can no longer distinguish intention and result. At the point where everything is where it has to be and nothing is extraneous. Where a wholeness shimmers and brings to life a whole much larger than its parts.
Neither impose nor destroy. Suggest and catalyze.
Neither boldness nor nuance is enough. The one without the other is hollow, shallow, dishonest.
Illusion, in the sense of a mimesis, is part of transformation. Delusion blocks it. The two can be distinguished. This is where we need to maintain Faith.
Delusion does not hold up without the support of compulsion. Illusion sweeps through the whole like an animating breath. This movement is transformation.
What is transformed maintains every state it has passed through and denies nothing. This effect grows with time. This effect is independent of desire. Is not subject to Will. It is the breath of Grace. It is inspiration. It establishes a being capable of confronting us back.
We need to first make room for change. This is why we drop compulsions. They fill our attention and block any passage towards change we might otherwise discover.
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7 thoughts on “To those younger…”
I updated the link to your other blog site. Thanks.
I feel good about this essay.
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That was fast!
This essay of yours is really exciting. Lots coming together. Some workable language coming into view.
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Negative Geography posed this question concerning this essay:
Nice. Could you say “illusion” could serve as a synonym for what I mean by “metaphor”, “story”, the prism? s
This was my response:
I don’t know. I’ve stumbled into this use of the term illusion and it doesn’t seem to fit into any other conception I’ve either made or heard of.
The trouble with mapping this directly to something like metaphor or story is that it is something that happens in direct, unmediated perception, albeit of a highly manipulated and mediated surface!
Making this reply brings up the concept of holographic, as Bohm uses the term. What appears as actual/real by way of mimesis has that incontrovertible feel of the holographic – and again, I don’t mean a literal hologram, but The Holographic nature of the Universe. There appears a fullness, a sense that what is there comes out of a greater whole that cannot be perceived directly – because it is too small to be seen, or too great to fit the frame…, or…, and this is important, that it has a temporal aspect reaching into time again, holographically, so that every kind of time is there to be…, perceived.
Painting, or any creative act taken to the level of a deep artistic practice – but, at least provisionally, distinct from non-physical creative acts, like writing – brings about a kind of critical mass of time. How’s that for a mixed metaphor! Marks are made. Some are additive, some are negating, as they accumulate in palimpsest they lose the signification of direct intentionality. They maintain some form of intentionality via a via negativa, they’ve not been obliterated; but this is intention as an acceptance of what has happened, an openness to what has arisen; and not any longer something willed to be a certain way. All of this takes time. Time spent making marks. Time spent waiting for an actionable impulse to make another mark. Time spent forgetting what was expected, intended, misunderstood about what was actually happening while under the thrall of a drive after some foreseeable result. Then, there’s the time it takes for the paint layers to dry, to pass through a phase when the drying layer falsifies what’s there by being too opaque, or too glossy, or too mat. All these involvements in time accumulate and then – and here’s the critical-mass point about time – what had been just passing time and accumulating interventions takes on this illusion….
An illusion, because I can’t think of a more honest way to describe seeing what is not there. It’s just paint. How can I see a body, or air, or moving water? This illusion has the quality pf presence. This presence is of both what appears in the illusion and also the presence of the painting itself as a…, I’m tempted to say a hyperobject, but that term’s been taken and I don’t know enough about how its author means it to say it fits here. I’ve long seen a painting as a privileged surface, a surface singled out for a special kind of scrutiny. A surface we invite someone to look at in the way a painter looks at the world, with an openness and suspension of impositions of order or confusion so that this view into our visual field can be explored as a thing in the world as well as a thing in ourselves. The observer is the observed!
Maybe this is how we experience wholeness?
In reply Jeff asked,
Even though the medium relating to “illusion” differs and has its own unique set of considerations, the description you provide (which is beautiful) is very much related to a metaphoric or prismatic perspective. For words also aren’t the actuality, but if we are awake to this, they present a knowing illusion, a conscious metaphor, a certain way of presenting theatrically (which is connected to “theory”) what can’t be captured.
I keep coming back to what you suggested, that this notion of illusion might be related to metaphor, story, the prism….
It’s becoming more clear that it is. What I was attempting to articulate in my first response was the sense that there is some distance between physical art and written modes. What’s come to me since then is that, if we were to look at film, for example, where we do have all the elements of Logos and in the end a physically made artifact, we do have metaphor and story intact within a physical art form. Even painting holds story and metaphor within it. Theater….
What holds my attention these days has been an attempt to look at how thinking happens and how creativity actually occurs. This is driven by a realization? that every story about thinking and creativity seems to misrepresent what actually happens. Think of the compulsory montage scene. Someone gets an “Idea!™” and then we hop from one highlight to the next, a few images of frustration that get paved over and on to the final celebration of “Genius!™”
I remember back in school, even elementary school, where we were set-up to be confused and then expected to “screw on our thinking caps!” and find the answer. The way just about everyone has/is defeated by the impossibility of this demand. The way just about everyone turns away from any question without a pre-digested answer because they’ve had any potential introduction to what thinking and creativity might actually be beaten out of them.
There’s some study taking place around the notion of embodied intelligence. I don’t have the energy to “read-up on it.” Kind of like “Fighting for Peace!” I don’t think we need to “study it” repeating the same mistakes by ensuring that whatever insight arises from it will get packaged into the same old paradigm…. Still, the name does sound compelling. What happens designing a boat or painting is something that occurs within an embodiment and through a series of physical interactions with materials in ways where what results are imaginings, the creation of illusions, in the sense of mimetic appearances of worlds that do not “exist.”
My resistance to work that is thinking turned directly into words is not because I discount these forms. I can’t live without them! But, it seems necessary for me to give more attention to this other form of thinking that has been left out and that may be a bit more resistant to the maw chomping down anything that might lead us away from our old traps.
This note is leading me around to realize that even purely written art comes out of and is formed within an embodied intelligence. It’s just that in the case of writing this embodiment is less obvious. Especially with mechanical reproduction, including electronic, – The kind of thing David Abrams talked about in relation to ancient writing, lacking spaces and punctuation, where the reader had to sound out, and by laboriously turning the signs back into sounds in an act of inspiration, a re-enactment of the sense-finding, sense-making act of composing that went into writing. – this effort, this embodied involvement with the physical, present in the carved stone, or even the stylus in wet clay…, is easily forgotten.
For a while I didn’t want to write because words seemed so insubstantial. But attention to the origins of intention, prior to the formation of words, reveals creative intelligence to be far more insubstantial than words. If we approach language as an end in itself, then it feels like all we end up with is sand that runs through our hands and leaves us empty. The desire to “capture” truth in words makes a mockery of words. But if we approach language as a twilight zone of sorts, a magic smoke, which gives the body a way to find resonance with an unfathomable meaning, an ungraspable, insubstantial truth, intelligence, life, then it’s a remarkable art form. But only if we approach it with the right respect, knowing its limits, knowing it can’t nail anything down.
This need for “theatrics” which don’t mistake themselves for a Literal fact is becoming clearer. A plane has to be applied to remove the close association of “theatrics” to “deception” or “self-expression”. It needs to be honest, part of a deepening enquiry into one’s own limits.
Or rather the limits of who we think we are. The limits of knowing, as in certainty.
One more thought to correct the direction I left you hanging maybe. I think it’s more satisfying — we range farther in some sense, experience the truth more vividly maybe, when we play in more solid substance. Feeling the implicit connections, meanings buried in a solid thing is far more satisfying from some angles than the less concrete satisfaction of language, which is just a sound, no more solid than symbols.
But I relate to language materially. It feels the same at least. There are static structures that need to be arranged in ways that elicit a feel for something more implicit, more insubstantial.
But the substantial isn’t divided from substance. It’s the ground of substance itself somehow. Or maybe there are increasingly subtle and less subtle forms of meaning.
Yes, I’m starting to see this. I’ve felt a lack in my own approach to writing that’s become more and more identifiable as an unfamiliarity with this aspect of the word. You are right. It is there, if and when we can see it. Feel it. Without this aspect, it is hard to move about in the space of words the way we move about in physical space.
In one way, I’ve always felt this. I couldn’t have written, or even read, without having this connection. It’s just that, as we’ve been working around it, this needs to be recognized. It needs to be fore fronted when teaching/learning.
Poets talk and feel a synesthesia around language….